How to Teach a Dog to Come When Called (Step-By-Step)

Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important obedience skills you can train. 

A reliable recall, also known as coming when called, enables you to keep your furry friend safe and gives them the freedom to run and play off-leash without worry.

With consistent positive reinforcement training, you can master this essential recall command and have confidence that your pup will return when you call their name, no matter how exciting the distraction. 

Read on for a complete guide to building a bulletproof recall in even the most stubborn or high-energy dog.

how to teach a dog to sit, person showing hand and dog is comming to a person,

How to Teach a Dog to Come 

Follow these step-by-step guidelines for teaching your dog to come on command:

Step 1: Use Positive Reinforcement

The most effective approach is positive reinforcement training. These reward-based method associates coming to you with treats, praise, play, and other things your dog loves.

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Lay Down

  • Reward with high-value treats like small pieces of chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or small training treats when your dog responds to the recall cue.
  • Pair the treat with enthusiastic verbal praise like “Good!” or “Yes!”
  • Vary and randomize rewards to maintain your dog’s engagement and interest in the training.
Illustration of dog training where dog is going to the treat in the hand of a woman and the text saying lure your do toward you with a treat.

Step 2: Start Indoors in a Low Distraction Environment

Introduce the recall cue in a quiet room without major temptations or distractions. Keep your pup on a long leash so you can gently reel them back in if needed.

  • Use an excited, happy tone when calling your dog’s name. Clap your hands or use other body language to engage them further. For instance, say your dog’s name followed by the word “come” in an inviting and happy tone: “Buddy, come!”
  • When they come, immediately reward them with treats and praise.
  • Repeat this short indoor training session multiple times per day to reinforce the behavior.

Step 3: Increase Distance Over Time

Once your dog consistently comes when called indoors, slowly increase the distance. Reward them for responding reliably despite being farther away from you.

  • Gradually move up to the full length of the leash, then drop the leash but stay inside.
  • Next, practice coming through doorways, around corners, or with you in a different room.
  • Frequently return to shorter distances and reward to keep motivation high.

Step 4: Practice Outside in Low Distraction Areas

After your dog has mastered recall indoors, it’s time to take the training outside to low-distraction environments. This could be your fenced backyard, an empty tennis court, or a quiet side street.

  • Use a long leash to prevent your pup from practicing ignoring your recall cue. Don’t set them up to fail.
  • Keep training sessions short and reward frequently. End each session on a positive note with a reward for responding.
  • If your dog gets distracted or doesn’t come right away, reel them gently back to you with the leash and try again. 

Don’t ever chase your dog if they don’t come when called. Chasing them actually rewards their behavior of ignoring your command.

Step 5: Up the Ante in More Distracting Environments

Once the recall is reliable in low-distraction areas, it’s time to prove the command in more challenging situations. This should be a gradual process based on your dog’s temperament and energy level.

Some example training scenarios:

  • With a friend – Have a helper dangle a toy to tempt your dog or walk in the opposite direction calling them. When your dog doesn’t come, gently reel them back to you and reward.
  • On walks – Bring high-value treats and reward spontaneous recalls when your dog chooses to check in with you. Avoid overly stimulating situations at first.
  • Practice recall with your dog on a long line around the perimeter at the dog park before going into the off-leash area. Reward consistently.
  • Around other dogs – Set up training sessions with known, calm dogs. Reward your dog for focusing on you and coming when called instead of playing.
dog in a leash,

Step 6: Use Random, Real-Life Rewards

Once your dog understands the recall cue, switch up the rewards to maintain enthusiasm. Reward them sometimes with food, sometimes with toys or play, and sometimes with just verbal praise and petting.

Keeping rewards fun and unpredictable makes your dog eager to respond because they never know what’s in it for them!

Step 7: Use Consistent Cue Words

Always use the same verbal recall cue such as “Come!” or “[Your Dog’s name], come!” in a happy tone. Consistency helps cement the behavior.

You can pair the verbal cue with signals like whistles, claps, kissing noises, or visual cues for reliable off-leash recall. Just be sure to reward every time you call your dog!

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Stay

Common Recall Training Challenges

Teaching a reliable recall takes patience. Expect setbacks and troubleshoot problems with the following tips:

My dog is distracted around other dogs or people

  • Practice the “Look” or “Watch me” cue to redirect their focus to you
  • Use high-value “people food” like chicken or hot dogs as rewards
  • Ask strangers not to pet or interact with your dog during training

My dog won’t come when called at the dog park

  • Keep them on a long line until recall is solid in that environment
  • Reward ALL recalls at the park for the first several visits
  • Ask other owners to call and reward their dogs at the same time

My dog knows the command but selectively listens

  • Never call your dog to end fun or for something unpleasant like nail trims or leaving the park
  • Vary rewards and jackpot (extra treat bonanzas) for super fast recalls

Avoid repeating cues as this teaches your dog they can ignore you

My new puppy is too distracted

  • Keep initial training sessions very short – just a few minutes
  • Use high-pitched praise and excited body language to motivate your puppy
  • Gently guide or lure with treats to reinforce responding to their name

My rescue dog is shy and won’t come when called

  • Build confidence with reward-based training in low-distraction environments
  • Use especially high-value treats like chicken or hot dogs
  • Remain patient and avoid forcing interactions

While achieving perfect recall takes significant training time and commitment, the payoff of having a trustworthy, off-leash dog is immense. Be consistent with rewards, keep sessions upbeat, and prove the behavior in various environments, and your furry friend will be coming when called in no time!

Quick Tips for Improving Your Dog’s Recall

  • Start training recall early and often in puppyhood.
  • Always reward recalls, even when you’re frustrated.
  • Use real-life rewards like play and affection, not just treats.
  • Slowly increase distractions and environments.
  • End sessions on a positive note.
  • Avoid repeating cues multiple times.
  • Exercise your dog before intensive training sessions.


While it requires patience, a rock-solid recall is attainable for any dog. By following the positive reinforcement training guidelines outlined above and committing to regular short sessions, you can have confidence that your furry friend will come sprinting when you call their name!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Always consult a certified professional dog trainer or veterinarian for personalized training advice and guidance based on your dog’s individual needs and behavior.

Related: How to Teach a Dog to Sit

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